Monday, December 29, 2008

My Senegalege name and lessons in Wolof

My Senegalese name is Nafyissatou, but I am called Nafy for short.

some Wolof I have learned:

Nanga def? -- How are you?
Mangi fi rek? - I'm fine.

Jerejef. -- Thank you.
Su la nexe. -- Please.

Nanga tudd? - What's your name?
Mangi tudd... - My name is ...

Mangi dem -- Goodbye.

Waaw -- Yes.
Dedeet -- No.
Surna. -- I'm full.
Dama xiif -- I'm hungry.
Dama neleew. - I'm sleepy.

1 -- bena
2 -- nyar
3 -- nyeta
4 -- nyenent
5 -- jerom

Saturday, December 27, 2008

je suis arrivee....and other fun things

Senegal smells like a mixture of burning trash and fish and something else I can't figure out yet.

I have always thought that the introduction you get to a country is one of the most memorable parts of your journey. For instance, when I went to Nicaragua and they threw us in the back of a pickup truck and drove us two hours down the Pan-American Highway in the dark with a guy who didn't speak any English. That was the best introduction I had. Until now. I judge an introduction on its "goodness" by the amount of overwhelming adrenaline that kicks into my system while it's happening, and last night it certainly made its mark.

So we (Casey and Sam - from UVM- and I) arrive at Leopold Senghor airport in Dakar in the balmy, foggy morning. It was already 70 degrees and in my opinion of the country's weather (as far as I know so far) the most disagreeable time of the day. No breeze, stagnant air, and sticky. We were greeted by a young Senegalese man, who directed us onto a shuttle after disembarking the plane. After waiting fifteen minutes for everyone to get on the shuttle the doors finally closed to take us to the arrivals area and customs. An anticlimactic 15 seconds later we arrived at the terminal. The customs line was long and slow moving, I can not say that I was quite surprised. But now is when it gets fun. They told us not to let anyone carry our bags, nor to get a taxi, that a "representative" from Living Routes would pick us up and take us to Yoff where we were staying. Our representative happened to be one young airport security guy who walked us, followed by about 12 other young Senegalese men, to an old broken down Peugot hatchback with one mirror attached. When I imagine what it is like to be a celebrity, with paparazzi and fans swarming, this was certainly the closest experience. The men here are persistent and unnervingly charming. And when I say persistent, I mean they followed us from the arrivals gate, through customs, past baggage claim, and the taxi stand, and another 5 minutes up the road (which we walked in the middle of amidst swerving taxis) until we reached the car.

During all of this, we still had no idea if we were with the right people. No ID cards, no Living Routes sign, just 'come with us', 'over here', 'yes right this way'. There was nothing to distinguish the three guys we met at the rusted out Peugot from the fellas scurrying after us like ants at a picnic. I think we were all a bit worried when we saw the car - it was like a red flag - "warning you are going to be abducted please trust your instincts and return to the sanctity of the english speaking airport officials". I ignored the feeling. My alternative was to turn around and ask one of my overly pushy fan-club members to hail me a taxi, to an undisclosed location where I was supposed to be staying. "Get in" I told the girls, and we squished inside. The three guys climbed into the front seat and off we went, into the night.

Obviously, I have not been abducted. It turns out a rapid car ride took us straight to Fatou Lo's house (she works for GENSEN the NGO I'll be working with) where we were greeted. We have a rooftop garden where we watched the sun rise before getting in bed. I can see the ocean from up there. Down on the dirt streets feral cats and goats are abundant and there was a mosque call somewhere very nearby. Fatou's family, that I have met so far, consist of her three sisters, their parents, and baby Aisha who is 7 months old. We haven't eaten since we get off the plane, although I just finished a cup of hot, sugary Nescafe.

My French is much better than I thought and I have apparently been picked out by the family to communicate with the other girls, as well as feed the baby, and decifer the labels of lotion bottles. My new found responsabilities are apparently quite important. Thankfully, I have yet to change an African diaper.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

I hope I get to ride on this thing.

a little introduction...

So, this is my first blog. Ever. If you couldn't already tell, I've made it because I'm going to Senegal for 5 months and I think it is a really good way to keep anyone who is interested in my trip up to date on all of the fabulous adventures I'll be having :). If noone decides to read it, at least I'll have a good way to document my trip. I already posted some of the Senegalese rap I found on youTube. I've been trying to buff up on my Senegalese culture, plus I heard there is some really good music coming out of the country right now. This stuff might not be for everyone, but it reminds me a lot of the music from Jamaica that I really like. I expect to be posting photos as I go along if I can figure this thing out. I'll try not to inundate everyone with a million shots of nothing.
So I pretty much have everything I need to go, waiting for my new camera and merrell's to come in the mail. Started packing, but of course that is overwhelming. I leave on Friday (Dec. 26th) so it is coming up really fast. I'm nervous and excited...mostly wondering if I'll have everything I need. But I'll survive. Keep your eyes open for my first post once I get there sometime next week, and I promise to give a detailed account of my New Year's Eve ;)

peace. J

the inspiration...

"They danced down the streets like dingledodies, and I shambled after as I've been doing all my life after people who interest me, because the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones that never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn..."
- Jack Kerouac, On the Road